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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Alabama softball secures Women’s College World Series spot with win over Tennessee

CW / Riley Thompson
Alabama softball player Riley Valentine (#17) celebrates a grand slam against Tennessee in Knoxville, TN on Sunday, May 26, 2024.

Alabama softball traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee, over the weekend for the NCAA Super Regionals with a weekend series win. Despite losing the first game 3-2 on Friday, Alabama came back to win the last two games of the series and is now heading to the WCWS in Oklahoma City for the 15th time in program history.  

Despite an early lead, Alabama fell to 3rd-seeded Tennessee 3-2 on Friday.

The No. 14 seed Crimson Tide jumped to a 2-0 lead before Tennessee scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning to take the lead. 

In the bottom of the fifth, Tennessee made its rally. With two outs, a bobble at second base by Alabama’s Kali Heivilin allowed a runner to score and extended the inning. A two-run homer from junior Laura Mealer brought the score to 3-2 in favor of the Volunteers.

Pitcher Kayla Beaver started strong for Alabama but wound up allowing three runs on two hits over 4.2 innings, and freshman Jocelyn Briski relieved her in the fifth. Alabama’s first three hitters went down in the seventh inning, sealing the game for Tennessee.

Despite having six total hits to Tennessee’s three, Alabama left seven runners on base over the course of the game, six of them being stranded in scoring position.

“Today’s game was just a barn burner,” head coach Patrick Murphy said. “We’ve improved so much game after game leading up to the postseason. In all three phases of the game.”

After the loss, Alabama needed to take the rest of the games in the series to punch its ticket to the WCWS.

The team stayed in contention with a 3-2 win in a 14-inning marathon that marked the longest NCAA Super Regional game to date. It was the ninth time in Super Regional history that a game went beyond 10 innings. 

The Crimson Tide seized an early 1-0 advantage thanks to left fielder Jenna Johnson’s RBI, but Tennessee countered with a run of its own in the second inning. In the fourth inning both teams exchanged solo homers, leaving the game tied 2-2. 

In the pivotal 14th inning, pinch hitter Lauren Johnson’s leadoff single set the stage for designated player Riley Valentine’s double, which advanced Lauren Johnson to third. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Kristen White’s fielder’s choice brought home the winning run, sealing the victory for Alabama and forcing a decisive Game 3.

“Kudos to Tennessee,” Murphy said. “That was a great game all the way around. They made play after play. When Riley [Valentine] hit that ball in the last inning down the line, I assumed it would be an amazing diving catch. What a game. Kayla Beaver was so gritty today. It’s amazing to see what she’s done this year.”  

With the series tied, the stage was set for a winner-take-all Game 3, where the victor would advance to the Women’s College World Series.

Alabama secured its spot in Oklahoma City with a 4-1 victory on Sunday.

Valentine’s grand slam in the first inning propelled the Crimson Tide to an early 4-0 lead. This marked her second grand slam of the season.

After the top of the first, the game was delayed three hours due to rain.

Tennessee attempted a rally in the seventh inning, scoring a run and loading the bases. Beaver, who relieved Briski, managed to escape the situation and secure the win for Alabama.

Beaver expressed pride in the team’s performance, emphasizing her and her teammates’ unity and confidence.

“I can’t even describe this feeling right now,” she said. “I can’t be prouder of everybody on this team.”

Alabama will now head to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to compete in the Women’s College World Series, which begins May 30 and will be broadcast on ESPN.

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